By: GPM Staff

You may have seen news outlets reporting that the Tennessee House of Representatives just passed a Constitutional Carry bill and sent it to the governor for signature, but many gun rights activists argue this is not a real Constitutional Carry bill.

President of the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) Dudley Brown said in a press release, “Republican legislators in Tennessee are compromising on the Second Amendment. With a Republican supermajority in the General Assembly, there is no excuse to sell out and pass a half-measure.”

So what constitutes a clean Constitutional Carry bill?

NAGR, who has successfully passed this legislation in numerous states, lays out clear-cut criteria for Constitutional Carry.

According to NAGR’s website, “Constitutional Carry laws recognize the right of every law-abiding citizen to carry a firearm, openly or concealed, on their person, without having to receive government permission in the form of a mandatory state-issued permit.”

Eighteen states currently meet these requirements and recognize the right to constitutionally carry.

The website goes on to list four “key features” in a clean Constitutional Carry bill.

    If a person is not prohibited from possessing a firearm, they should not be prohibited from carrying it. A clean Constitutional Carry bill should lift restrictions that prohibit a person who lawfully possesses a firearm from carrying.
    If a citizen with a license is not prohibited from carrying in a state, neither are those who do not possess a license. Concerning restrictions on the places a person can carry, a solid Constitutional Carry bill should remove any inequalities between a license holder and someone who does not possess a license.
  1. CLEAR.
    Citizens should not be in fear of unknowingly breaking the law. Clean Constitutional Carry bills should eliminate confusing language that might lead people to either (a) refrain from carrying because of legal uncertainty; or (b) accidentally carry unlawfully.
    A government does not grant gun rights. Any Constitutional Carry bill worth its salt should recognize the freedom to keep and bear arms in self-defense as a God-given right, not a privilege bestowed by governments.

So let’s look at House Bill 786/Senate Bill 765 and see how this legislation lines up with this criteria.

As point number one states, if someone can legally possess a firearm, that person should be able to carry it without a permit.

Unfortunately, the bill just passed in Tennessee imposes limitations on who can carry that are stricter than federal law regarding possession of a firearm.

Folks who have been convicted of certain nonviolent misdemeanor crimes and have paid their debt to society will be prohibited from exercising their gun rights under this legislation.

This type of misdemeanor gun control is similar to legislation being pushed on the federal level by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY).

As for the equal places criteria, citizens with an Enhanced Handgun Carry Permit will be able to carry in more places than those who choose to forgo the permit.

For example, citizens cannot carry a handgun on the property of any public hunting area or wildlife management area unless they have a handgun carry permit.

Additionally, one cannot carry a handgun on recreational property owned by local or state government, such as parks or civic centers, unless that person has a handgun carry permit.

This discrepancy in the law could get unsuspecting Tennesseans thrown in jail for unknowingly violating the law making this bill a violation of both the second and third criteria.

Finally, a clean Constitutional Carry bill should recognize that the government does not grant your right to carry.

HB 786/SB 765 fails to do this because it prohibits legal adults age 18, 19, and 20 from being able to exercise their right to carry for self-defense.

On top of that, this bill only applies to handguns. Citizens will not be able to carry a long gun without a permit.

This bill is full of bad language, and it isn’t just gun rights activists who say this bill doesn’t meet the criteria for Constitutional Carry.

Speaker Cameron Sexton told a radio host, “[This is] one good step in getting us towards true Constitutional Carry,” seemingly admitting this bill is not true Constitutional Carry.

State Senator Kerry Roberts outright told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “I don’t believe it’s a true Constitutional Carry bill.”

State Senator Mike Bell made similar statements, ““This bill is not everything that everyone wanted, but it gets the ball further down the field.”

So did anyone try to fix the issues with this bill?

State Representative Todd Warner filed an amendment that would have fixed every issue detailed above and would have made this bill a clean Constitutional Carry bill.

When the amendment came to the floor for a vote on Monday night, all but 8 Republicans and a handful of Democrats voted AGAINST making the bill true Constitutional Carry.

Republicans in Tennessee have full control of the state government with massive supermajorities.

27 out of 33 state Senators are Republican, and 73 out of 99 state Representatives are Republican.

There is no excuse for them to not have passed a clean Constitutional Carry bill but the majority of the Republican caucus voted against it anyway.

“It is a shame that Republican lawmakers in Nashville would rather pass a half-baked attempt at Constitutional Carry instead of using their supermajorities to pass a clean bill,” Brown said.

“Unfortunately, legislative leaders are refusing to work with actual gun owners to pass a good Constitutional Carry bill, and prefer hiding behind the cover of the establishment gun lobby who’ve given this anti-gun compromise their blessing.”

The bill now goes to the governor’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.